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In: Family

July 6, 2013

Action Shots

Just some latest news from the boys. Felix is now walking and a pretty goofy guy, Milo goes mountain biking with his dad and can write his name. The boys like to have fun together until Felix grabs one of Milo’s toys. So all is good in the hood.

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Our fearless biker

 

and fearless wobbler

June 10, 2013

A Day In Our Lives

Some days I feel completely overwhelmed by the workload of a full time job, taking care of kids, and running a household. Other days I am full of energy and everything feels like a piece of cake. One day I will look at back at this post and wonder how we managed to make a living, have a homemade meal on the table every day, and keep the kids entertained. The truth is, we can’t always fulfill all needs and wants. But we are doing our best. This is what a typical day in our life in April 2013 looks like:

5 AM: Felix wakes up, but I just give him a bottle, change his diapers, and turn the lights off again. He better learn early on that I am not to be disturbed before a certain time and he can tend to himself if he really needs to be up before the birds. Usually he just chills in his bed or falls back asleep for another hour or two.

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6 AM: Felix wakes up for real now, if he wasn’t already awake at 5. Time for his milk, diaper change, and getting him into some clothes. This is his and my hour before everybody Milo wakes up. I might take a shower while Felix watches the water drip down. Then I make lunch for Milo and Felix and I play for a little bit.

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7 AM: Milo wakes up. Like clock work. Because of his Gro Clock. Still the best kids related purchase ever. I can’t wait for Felix to be old enough to follow it. Sometimes I hear Milo up before 7, but he just goes potty by himself and then goes back to bed until the sun shows. “Mami, Sonne is da!” is my cue to bring him his milk. It usually takes him about half an hour to really want to get up and get going, so Felix and Milo and me hang out in his room together an chat about the upcoming day.

7:30 AM: Milo is ready to climb my back and ride downstairs. All kids and me have breakfast together. Sometimes I have to actively feed all three people, because Milo is too distracted or unmotivated to eat.

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8 AM: Milo plays by himself, while I pack up my stuff, clean up the kitchen, and finish packing his school bag.

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8:30 AM: Felix is either ready for a nap or I hand him over to Lincoln. Either way it’s time for Daddy to wake up. Milo and I leave for the day.

photo 5

9 AM: Milo’s preschool starts, Mama goes to work, Daddy and Felix stay at home. Felix usually takes one nap in the morning and (unless he is sick) is pretty happy chewing on something or jumping in his bouncer, so that Lincoln can get about two hours worth of work done.

photo 5

12:30 PM: Lincoln packs up Felix and they pick up Milo from school, which ends at 1PM. They all go to Lincoln’s parents house, where Milo takes a long nap and Felix is being cared for by the grandparents or auntie Rosie. Usually he takes another nap. Then the kids play for the rest of the afternoon.

5 PM: I get home and seize my golden hour before the rest of the family gets home. Now is the time to prepare a quick dinner, pick up stuff around the house or finish some home decor projects. Ideally, dinner was prepared the night before and is already cooking in the crockpot, but that only happens about once a week. Usually I try to make quick stuff like stews, pasta, or burgers and we make enough for two days so that less cooking is required. This is the most productive hour of my day.

photo 2

6 PM: Lincoln and the kids come home. Felix is usually tired enough to go to bed right away, so I give him his bottle, change into PJs, and put him to bed. If he had a late nap, he might stay up for dinner with us. We all try to eat together, although Milo sometimes already comes home fully fed.

photo 4

6:30 PM: Play time. This is really the one hour of the day where I try not to worry about getting stuff done and Lincoln and I play with Milo. Usually lots of wrestling, playing some sort of ball sport, or running around is involved.

7:30 PM: Time to get ready for bed. On bath nights we go upstairs closer to 7:15. While I wash Milo, brush his teeth, and read a book with him, Lincoln takes a nap on the couch.

8 PM: Kids free time begins! For Lincoln that usually means getting back to the computer to work, but depending on how much he got done during the day he might also tend to computer games, watch hockey, or work out in the basement. My idea of a good time is working on home decor projects or working on home decor projects. Once or twice a week we hang out together and watch ER or do what couples do. Somehow however, around 4 out of 7 evenings end up being used for errands. The list of things to do is endless: do laundry, pay bills, do financial planning, write blog posts, prepare my lunches for the week, go grocery shopping, stay in touch with people, research kids activities, etc.

10 PM: Is my average bed time. Sometimes it’s half an hour earlier, sometimes later, but you bet that I regret that the next day. Lincoln keeps working / enjoying quiet time much later.

2 AM: Lincoln goes to bed. All lights go out. The house sleeps.

 

February 7, 2013

Money Doesn’t Make Babies

Being a mom in the US and having had to deal with an inferior governmental support system to raise my kids, a current debate in Germany has caught my attention. What can the government do to turn the declining birth rate around that is threatening to lead to a collapse of the social system and lack of qualified workers in the future?

Over the past years the German government has shifted more and more tax money into making having kids affordable. Let’s start with maternity benefits.
There is a freaking designated law protecting mothers!
  • They are not allowed to work 6 weeks before estimated due date until 8 weeks after birth.
  • During that time they are being compensated for their income loss at 100% of their net-salary.
  • They have the right to leave their job for up to 3 years with the guarantee to be able to go back to the same job afterwards.
  • They have the right to be able to work part time during the first three years of their child.
  • Pregnant women are forbidden from working jobs that could harm the baby or mother and the employer has to give them a different task for the duration of pregnancy. During this time they also cannot be laid off or fired.

Beyond that, the so-called “Parent Money” is paid to parents for up to 14 months after the birth of a child as a compensation for lost income if one parent is staying home and caring for the child. It is generally 65% of your net-income. Then there is also the “Children Money”: In Germany every family gets 184 Euro ($246) per child per month until the child starts to have an income or turns 25. No conditions or income limitations tied to it.

Daycare and preschool are heavily subsidized, or even free in some communities.
But apparently all that massive spending is not working. It might make parenthood more affordable and easy on the parents that have kids anyway, but the money does not magically make people reproduce.
“Money doesn’t make babies” was a headline in the German news that caught my eye and made me start to think about what a government could do to convince me to have another child. To be clear – I am done with having kids. The certainty of this decision rose from 99% right after Felix birth to 100% as of right now. Having done the first two kids completely without any financial support from the government, you would think that money could make a difference to me. What if I had an extra $500 a month? Or $1000 or $2000? I would probably find a thousand other ways to spend that money on my existing family rather than on a new baby. Felix could go to daycare so that Linc and his parents get more work done. Milo could do more extracurricular classes. We could start saving for their college funds, etc., etc. In short – the government couldn’t pay me enough money without going broke to get me to make another baby.
So now the German politicians and anybody else involved in the debate are looking into other ways to facilitate reproduction, particularly among young and educated citizens. The compatibility of raising kids with having a career is being brought up a lot. Childcare options need to me more widely available, work hours more flexible, pay rates and employment opportunities equal between mothers and child-less people.
Well, Germany, I can give you that perspective as somebody who is working with a highly progressive company in a very flexible job that allows me to raise children while having a perfectly fulfilling career: It doesn’t make me want to have another baby either. Babies make the same job exponentially harder, regardless of how flexible it is. Sleep deprivation, distraction by sick children or other parental concerns, make it really hard to focus sometimes and you have to push yourself way harder to get the same results as back in the days when you were well rested and all that mattered was yourself and your own pleasure. Maybe if I had the right to be able to work part time, it would make life with children and career easier. But I still wouldn’t have another baby because of it.
In my eyes what it all boils down to is that a government can do whatever they want and it won’t change people’s attitude towards having children or how many they want to have. Some people want 3-4 kids and they will do it regardless of any circumstances. Some people want only 1 or 2 kids, and nothing can change their mind. The reality is that more and more people move over to the 1-2 kids spectrum, rather than pursuing the big family model.
Without quoting any studies or other scientific backup I’m gonna go ahead and use my own opinion to explain this phenomenon. Young people today want to fulfill themselves. As freely and long as possible. We have an abundance of different career paths, opportunities for great life experiences, travel, etc. We delay having children as long as possible.
What if being a mother is part of your need to fulfill yourself? Then you have satisfied that longing after one child. Maybe, only maybe, you will have a second baby to give your first child the opportunity to experience siblinghood. But anything beyond that would restrict your and your family’s opportunities unnecessarily. Everything would get more expensive, traveling and luxuries not longer affordable in the extend that we like, and life just more complicated and restricted. Three kids outnumber the parents. Three is the magic number when everything gets out of balance. When you have fewer hands than kids to handle.
It’s not for me. And nothing can change that.

January 18, 2013

A Not So Merry Christmas

This year one of my big goals is to start all Christmas preparations way earlier than usual, so that I can finally experience a season of joy and peace rather than chaos and stress. But before that, let’s just wrap up last year real quick, shall we? 2012  was Felix’s first Christmas and Milo’s first time that he really understood what was going on. I had big dreams and plans to make it very special for our boys, but then life happened. Felix got very sick (sinus and ear infection, plus a bad cough with wheezing and trouble breathing) and Milo had a super emotional cranky phase. On top of that both kids were teething. Nobody in our house got nearly enough sleep and between December 17 and 27 we just wished for it all to be over.

We barely managed to get all Christmas preparations done and just wanted the kids to get better. The negative highlight of our holidays was spending Christmas Day with Felix at the urgent care clinic. No wonder we didn’t quite feel the festive spirit, right?

At least Milo didn’t seem to notice, so he had a good time with ripping presents open. We were wondering beforehand whether we would go with the whole Santa story or not. In the end we just kept it unspecific were the presents came from and I don’t think Milo cared enough yet. So maybe we will revisit this philosophic question this year. And are wishing for only one thing: Healthy and happy kids.

On these photos we look deceivably happy and healthy, but I swear we were all miserable inside. At least we won’t forever be reminded of a not so merry Christmas by these photos.

December 6, 2012

Family of Four

You ask – we answer.

So, how are we doing as a family of four?

  • Milo is still great with Felix. He sings him songs, makes him smile, and generally just cares for his wellbeing. When we are driving in the car and Felix starts to cry, Milo tells him ” No weinen, Felix. Gleich da” (“Don’t cry Felix, almost there”) He even said it the other day without Felix in the car when we were approaching our house and then got all concerned when he noticed that Felix wasn’t with us.
  • Milo is good with us now too. Right after Felix’s birth he had a major power struggle / tantrum phase. Whether it was related to Felix’s birth or just coincidence (Hello terrible twos!), we will never know. There were weeks when he would do only the opposite of what we said, not follow the simplest request, and throw things on purpose just to provoke us. All day long. Every single chore like a diaper change, getting him to eat, or change his shirt became a power struggle. But somehow we got through it. With lots of patience and persistance. I guess Milo understood that some things in life are non-negotiable and the only place his tantrums will get him is his room.
  • We, the parents are close to a burn out. We are basically just functioning. Taking care of babies, work, taking care of errands, sleep for a few hours. Repeat. At the end of the week we really miss spending quality time with each other and somehow manage to squeeze in an hour long in-house date night. But with Felix becoming less needy and Milo being pretty cooperative these days, things are definitely starting to look up.
June 3, 2012

Germany and Back

You would figure that by now we are quite the experts in visiting my hometown Schweinfurt in Germany. Considering that I have spent 2/3 of my life there it should be nothing but a home-run for me. Usually we go there almost every year – although with adding more and more paying customers to the flight bill, we might end up with a more biyearly rhythm in the future.

In a small conservative town like Schweinfurt a lot of things stay the same forever, but apparently I myself change just enough to make every trip different and surprising. Also the contrast between the two countries brings a lot of things into perspective that you don’t realize anymore after living in one of them for a while. Without this trip I would never have known how used I have gotten to having a microwave as standard in every kitchen or being able to grocery-shop late evenings and Sundays. On the other hand I really appreciated how solidly built German houses are. You can totally sneak up on sleeping Milo when there is no floorboard squeaking and the interior walls and doors actually block sounds so well that I was not woken up every morning by a little voice calling “mama”, but was able to sleep in almost every day.

It was pretty great tohave so many people around us who wanted to play with Milo and he really enjoyed all the extra attention. Especially from his uncle Marc. My parents unpacked all our old toys from millions of years ago and even got a sand box just for Milo’s visit. He loved playing in there with his girlfriend Wilma. On other days we took him to the little animal / play park next to our house where he passionately fed the rabbits and pointed out all the baby animals. Milo learned a bunch of new German words like rein (in), raus (out), hoch (up), aussteigen (get out) – but we were unsuccessfull at training him to say cars or water in German.

Overall Linc and I had a lot of free time to ourselves since Milo was so well entertained by others. We attended our friend’s Tim’s wedding without having to worry about getting a tried boy to bed. In the second week we even left Milo for entire 3 days to meet friends in Hamburg and discover a new city.

Jetlag and flight were not too bad by the way. Milo adjusted pretty well within 3 days and even though he did not sleep much during the flights, he stayed calm thanks to many videos and observing the sky. If you don’t care about how many videos your kid watches for one day, any flight is manageable. Although we were lucky to score an extra seat on the way to Germany. Just on the way back it was getting pretty tight with two seats for 3 and a half people.

Somehow this trip back home turned out to be one of the best I have had so far. It was very well balanced with extended family time, friends time, parents only time, and small family time, free time and fun things to do. Surprisingly it was also one of the easiest going back to the US – without the usual homesickness for two weeks. Maybe because I had to go right back to work, and we came back to our own little house, and I now have a small circle of really good friends that I was looking forward to go back to. If only I could do this more often.

See here a photo gallery of our adventures: http://lincnic.com/gallery?album=14&gallery=39

A male baby to be more specific. There you go. So much for my planned big reveal of the new baby’s sex. Sorry for not coming up with a super creative photo post, I already channeled all my energy into finishing the guest room before our first guests will use it this weekend, being sick, and caring for a sick child again. A child, that also just discovered the joys of fully blown temper tantrums. Ah, the joys!

It’s gonna be interesting to see how this next little boy is gonna differ from Milo and in which ways they will be able to connect. We are really hoping that in about two years they will be fully compatible play buddies that can entertain each other for hours with only minimal supervision.

My next couple of days will be spent designing a completely new nursery for baby nummer two. And we could really use your help to come up with a cool name. Milo was kind of the only name ever Linc and I really loved, so it will be hard to find an equally cool brother name.

My criteria for a name are pretty ambitious anyway and I’m gonna tell you right now that I usually have to reject about 90% of all suggestions that are given to me. Not to discourage you, but to set a challenge, this is what the name should be like:

  • Uncommon. As much as I like the name Noah, I don’t want him to be one of three Noah’s in his class.
  • Not too crazily unique
  • Easily pronounceable in English and German. We don’t want the poor kid to have to spell out his name everywhere he goes.
  • Short. If everyone calls the kid Alex, then why name it Alexander?
  • Not easily to abbreviate or made into weird nicknames

Ready? Set. Go!